Lionel Messi has not asked for a transfer to put his feet up for the final years of his career. This is a considered move aimed at bolstering his successes, and in one competition in particular.
If Lionel Messi’s mind is made up to leave Barcelona, the question turns to where he goes next. His priority has always been to be part of a “winning project” at Camp Nou but his latest season was not only devoid of trophies, it was defined by chaos and ended in humiliation.
The Champions League has become his obsession, which puts all of Europe’s super-clubs in contention and eliminates the less intensive, or more romantic, options, at least for now.
A fairytale return to Newell’s Old Boys in Argentina, a project-build Stateside in the MLS or even a challenge at an aspiring European team in the mould of Diego Maradona’s time at Napoli, will all become more likely once Messi is out of Barcelona.
But that is not likely to be his next step. Instead, Messi wants titles and a club he believes in again.
There will be no shortage of clubs pining for arguably the greatest player of all time but once they have done the sums, particularly in the heat of the coronavirus crisis, only a few will be able to make the numbers work.
On the back of their Champions League triumph, Bayern Munich are the pre-eminent force in Europe but they are unlikely to be able to afford Messi, aged 33, and with a base salary of around 60 million euros per year.
The same goes for Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, as well as Juventus, who remain restricted by the enormous outlay needed to sign Cristiano Ronaldo two years ago.
Perhaps Ronaldo’s transfer, which is yet to deliver Juve the European success they hoped it would, might even make some of Messi’s potential suitors nervous. Madrid, meanwhile, would love nothing more than to prize Messi from their rivals – and they have tried before – but even if Messi wants to leave Barca, he is not out to burn his reputation and legacy.